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Tim O Neill
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Posted: 29 December 2019 at 4:02pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply


Eddie Murphy portraying a deceased entertainer is part of a long, complicated
history in comedy. SNL has a long history of impressions, and the social
acceptance of the impressions is a reflection of the time the show aired. As
times change, we see how this acceptance changes.

All of this reminds me of Billy Crystal's one season on SNL - his breakout
character was Fernando, based on Fernando Lamas, who had died a few years
before the SNL appearance. The character was originally developed for
Crystal's variety show that didn't last. According to Lamas' son Lorenzo via an
OWN interview, his father approved of the impression. Lamas' former wife was
apparently not as thrilled. It seems that the original actor's acceptance of it
made it OK. I don't know if it would be OK by today's standards, both for
Lamas' death and his Argentine heritage.   Certainly, Crystal's Sammy Davis Jr.
and Prince impressions would not be ok as SNL has finally realized performing
in black face is pretty fucking awful.

Is it OK for Murphy to portray Buckwheat? He's not really playing the actor
Billie Thomas - he has always been portraying the character Buckwheat as if
the character was real and had grown up unchanged. Even the 80s Buckwheat
impression was the grown up character, not the actor. It might seem
acceptable to us, but George "Spanky" McFarland didn't approve of the
impression.

I think Murphy portraying James Brown was not going to happen in 2019, as a
singer's persona is not a character (like Buckwheat), but rather an exaggerated
extension of the singer's personality. The stage persona is not the man
himself, but a post-death impression would cross into bad taste for the general
public.

One factor that may play into this - there is certainly more artistic acceptance
of James Brown's work than of the Buckwheat character. While Buckwheat
may have seemed like inclusion at the time, it now appears more of a racist
stereotype today.


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Adam Schulman
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Posted: 29 December 2019 at 4:39pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Billy Crystal did a Prince impression? I missed that one. I only remember Fred Armisen's impression, which was sans blackface. 
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 29 December 2019 at 6:27pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Billy Crystal did a spot-on Sammy Davis Jr. 
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 29 December 2019 at 7:08pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I don't remember Billy Crystal doing a Prince impersonation. Must've  been lucky enough to have missed it.

But he even released a song (if you can call it that) and music video as Fernando.

And yes, his Sammy Davis Jr impersonation was spot-on. Certainly much better than Tommy Davidson's.



 
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 30 December 2019 at 6:32am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I did not recall Billy Crystal doing Prince. Yeesh!
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 30 December 2019 at 6:55am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Ugh 
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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 30 December 2019 at 9:32am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

I like Billy Crystal's work, for the most part. I still have his comedy album that came out during the Fernando craze. He had some really great moments on SNL; the Prince sketch was not one of them. His Royal Badness has long been enigmatic, but maybe seemed especially so when he hit big in the first half of the 80's, which may be why the impression so widely missed the mark. They took what they didn't know and filled in the blanks with some generic egomaniac thug persona. 

Fred Armisen, by contrast, killed it. He and the writers did have the benefit of an extra 20 years to get to "know" Prince, though. 

Chappelle's take was also hilarious. 


Murphy's return to SNL was triumphant; I enjoyed seeing his Buckwheat, again. I realize Our Gang/Little Rascals catches flack for racist portrayals, I can't say they're completely absent, but this was mainstream American entertainment produced in the 1920's thru the 1940's with White kids and Black kids essentially portrayed as equals. Not without flaws, but still impressive. 

And Buckwheat's speech pattern was echoed (maybe even originated) by his (White) best friend, Porky, in the shorts (both saying "O-Tay!" and other mispronunciations). I don't think it was an exploited 'shuck-and-jive' trait, nor was Murphy's impression ever intended as such. 





Edited by Brian Rhodes on 30 December 2019 at 9:34am
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David Allen Perrin
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Posted: 30 December 2019 at 9:38am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Im considering legal action one someone after viewing Billy Crystal as Prince.  Somebody needs to pay for that! 

Holy Mother of God.  That was horrendous. 


Edited by David Allen Perrin on 30 December 2019 at 9:39am
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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 30 December 2019 at 9:41am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I'm not a Lizzo fan, but I can understand why she has them. Her songs (from what I know of them) are catchy and full of body-positive energy and strong female independence and sass. And she seems to have a sense of humor about it all and looks like she's having a good time. 

I was most struck by the all-female-of-color rock band that was backing her SNL performance. Less so the female-of-color part than the rock part. I guess that's in line with her attitude, though... raw, real, powerful, take-it-or-leave-it. Good for her. 

Edited by Brian Rhodes on 30 December 2019 at 9:45am
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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 30 December 2019 at 4:44pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Crystal's impression of Ali was the greatest. (Ba doomp boomp!)
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